The Pirate King has challenged his two sons to various contests, and in the process, the elder son has kidnapped Aaron for his knowledge about the area. Wanting to save Aaron, Emily strikes a bargain with the younger son. She will help him and pretend to be his captive in exchange for his help rescuing Aaron. As they set sail on an elaborate treasure hunt, Emily learns more about the pirates and their unlikely crew becomes a new place where Emily can feel at home. However, she is still hiding a secret about being a mermaid, as pirates hate mermaids.
What I loved: This is a very fun action/adventure that will keep readers turning the pages quickly. With an elaborate treasure hunt and short timelines, there’s a lot going on. In addition to that, there are also some great messages about prejudice/hate, leadership qualities, and fitting in. The book handles them all with aplomb. Particularly with regards to prejudice both handling sexism and speciesism (general hatred of mermaids) that can start some important conversations.
This charming story is well-suited to the middle grade audience. The themes are perfectly on target for this age group with a lovely added adventure to keep the audience hooked. Although Emily is 13 and has a boyfriend, she reads as much younger and the dating elements are more like best friends (there is a chaste kiss in the book but nothing more significant).
What left me wanting more: My only (small) concern was the general lack of consideration of parents. Emily leaves without telling hers where she is going, and Sam (the pirate prince) has parents which are generally terrible. This is not unheard of for the young audience, but it would have been nice to see some typical parents and more typical reactions (e.g. Emily’s parents do not seem too concerned at the end).
Final verdict: Overall, this is an action-packed and delightful book that will definitely appeal to middle grade readers. I would highly recommend for young readers who love pirates, mermaids, and adventures on the high seas. This book is sure to charm a broad audience.